Another week and another 'end of project' celebratory lunch. We had a lot of people to celebrate with, but this is the last one, I promise! Our American project manager and my dear friend, loves Indian food and so our hosts chose to take us to Benares in the heart of Mayfair.
Chef Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star (at his previous restaurant Tamarind) and still retains a star at Benares. This isn't your usual curry house you would find on every British High street, that is for sure! Atul combines his heritage Indian flavours with traditionally British ingredients to create a unique and interesting menu.
To kick things off I had Hand Dived Scottish Scallop in the Shell, Textures of Cauliflower. It didn't come in the shell as described, but I didn't mind. The shell is just superfluous to requirements in my opinion. The scallops were cooked to absolute perfection. Coated in a myriad of spices that just gave it that little bit of kick. The textures of cauliflower were interesting. One, blood red and pickled, the other almost tempura like, but with Indian flavours and the third a really smooth puree. Very tasty.
Tawa Gosht Aur Sunhari Kahsta (Locally Farmed Cannon of Lamb, Umbles Samosa, Fork Crushed Potatoes, Pickled baby Artichoke, Sauce Rogan Josh) My main dish was a little mixed. The umbles samosa (innards), which I didn't think I would like, was actually the best part of the dish for me. The filling was really succulent and full of flavour and the pastry very crisp. A very light tasting element of the dish considering the contents. The potatoes were also delicious, mixed with fresh green chillies and more Indian spicing. The lamb however, was a little disappointing. It was cooked very well, but it could've been any piece of meat. For some reason it just didn't taste like lamb. The rogan sauce was served on the side and was not as punchy as the variety you would find in your local takeaway. I'm not sure which is the more authentic of the two, but it was still nice.
We ordered a few vegetable side dishes, which in hindsight were totally unnecessary due to the amount of food we had! None-the-less, they were all very good. Punjabi Chole (Chick Pea Casserole) was my favourite. I love chickpeas and this was an interesting recipe that I want to try and recreate at home. We also ordered Tori Ki Bhaji (Stir Fried Courgette), which was a little boring. There was none of those magical spice combinations that were in some of the other dishes.
After all that food, I had no space left for dessert. But my sweet-toothed American friend ordered what I would have had. Chocolate Peanut Butter Tube, Jaggery Cake, Cumin Marshmallow and Sugar Cane Ice-Cream. Chocolate and peanut butter are a combination made in heaven for me and I was intrigued how the cumin would fit into this dish, so I snuck a little taste. In one word - inspired! The cumin was so subtle, but it just lifted the dessert to a whole new level.
Service was friendly but a little haphazard. We felt a little rushed initially to place our orders, but the food was pretty slow in coming out. When the main dishes came out, only 2 of the 4 came out and then there was a delay of a few minutes for the rest of the dishes. Not good. Saying that though, that was the only real dampener on the lunch.
I seem to have used 'nice' an awful lot in this post and that best describes the whole experience. Nice. Indian food is not my favourite cuisine, but I am glad I have been to Benares and experienced some truly interesting Indian flavours.
Until we eat again!
12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BS